Look no further. This article will provide an in-depth look at Facebook's promotional rules.
The Tricky Rules
Running a contest on Facebook is a powerful way to generate buzz, increase engagement, boost your fan count and build your email list. But Facebook has rigorous rules governing what campaigns you can and cannot administer and promote on their platform.
For several years, the contest rules were fairly loose and Facebook users and page admins could pretty much administer whatever campaigns they wished within the confines of Facebook's general terms (now called Statement of Rights and Responsibilities).
Bottom line, Facebook doesn’t want any explicit involvement in ANY of your contests. It’s all about liability, and the Facebook promo guidelines are designed to distance the social network from whatever companies and bloggers do with their contests.
Every day, vast numbers of page admins—from small businesses to major brands—administer promotions that violate Facebook's rules. They are running the risk of having their pages disabled completely. I strongly recommend all Facebook page admins become very familiar with how to safely run contests within the rules.
This post will tell you what you need to know.
What does Facebook mean by a “promotion”?
To quote Facebook:
These Promotions Guidelines govern your communication about or administration of any sweepstakes, contest, competition or other similar offering (each, a “promotion”) on Facebook.
A “sweepstakes” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner selected on the basis of chance.
A “contest” or “competition” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria).
So, anytime you run a campaign on Facebook where you wish to select a winner, that would fall into the terms of Facebook's Promotions Guidelines.
Facebook also says:
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You will not administer a promotion through Facebook, except through an application on the Facebook Platform. Administration includes operation of any element of the promotion, such as collecting entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners.
Simply said: You can't use Facebook's features for your promotions!
A promotion where you select winners is not to be confused with you simply promoting and marketing your business—that's exactly the reason Facebook (fan) pages were designed!
What are Facebook's contest rules in plain English?
On November 6, 2009, Facebook changed their Promotions Guidelines significantly. Prior to this date, it was pretty much a free-for-all. With the changed rules, Facebook basically went from one extreme to the other.
In order to administer any kind of contest, you had to (1) get written approval from Facebook at least seven days prior to running your campaign, (2) have an account rep at Facebook and meet the minimum ad spend of $10,000 per month and (3) use a third-party app on the Facebook platform.
Then, on November 29, 2010, Facebook loosened up a bit and changed rules. So, the good news is:
- You no longer need written permission from Facebook in order to run a contest.
- You no longer need an account rep at Facebook, nor do you need to meet the minimum monthly ad spend.
- BUT you still must administer ALL contests on Facebook via a third-party app ON the Facebook platform.
That's right! You MUST use an app to conduct a contest or risk having Facebook come down on you. Unless of course you're a big time advertiser with Facebook.
What apps are best for running contests?
One of the most widely used apps is Wildfire app. Their interface is fairly easy to use and their fees are competitive.
You can choose among 10 different types of promotions, including photo, video, quiz, trivia and more:
See Wildfire's FAQ to decide among running a sweepstakes, contest or coupon/giveaway campaign.
A wide variety of third-party apps offer promotion services that meet Facebook's rules. Check out any of the following:
- Momentus Media
- UPDATE March 5, 2011: Two additional promotions app services to check out include Offerpop and PromoBoxx.
- UPDATE March 14, 2011: Another promotions app to add to this list is Freepromos (currently 400k monthly active users!). Free for Pages with fewer than 5,000 fans. $100 for Pages with 5,000-50,000. White label also available.
Can I select a fan at random to give away a prize?
No. This constitutes a drawing where winners get selected. You're effectively using Facebook to “collect entries.” Plus, you cannot contact winners inside Facebook at all—via email, chat or posting on their wall—nor can you post winners on your page wall.
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What you can do, for example, is select a fan at random and feature him or her in your page photo. Or possibly feature chosen fan(s) on a custom tab (link). As long as you don't have other fans vote or submit nominations, etc.
Toys ”R” Us currently runs a fun Featured Fan promotion. Keep in mind the submission and voting is, of course, part of an official sanctioned promotion being run on a third-party app.
Can I have my fans enter a contest by uploading photos?
Not if you ask fans to upload photos directly to Facebook. Photos, or any content, submitted for entry into a contest can only be done via a third-party app on the Facebook platform. The Facebook app doesn't count.
From the Promotions Guidelines:
You cannot: Condition entry in the promotion upon a user providing content on Facebook, such as posting on a wall of a page, uploading a photo, or posting a status update.
You can: Use a third-party application to condition entry to the promotion upon a user providing content to the application. For example, you may administer a photo contest whereby a user uploads a photo to a third-party application to enter the contest.
I searched extensively for a Flickr Facebook app, for example, that might be a good workaround for running a contest, but came up blank.
If you do a Google search for “Facebook photo contest,” unfortunately, you'll see there are scores of Facebook pages running photo contests that do not adhere to Facebook's terms.
Here's a fun example of a photo contest—that does comply with Facebook's Promotions Guidelines—by the United States Potato Board:
Can I give away a prize to anyone who likes my page?
You CAN restrict your promotion only to entrants who have first liked your page, as long as the promotion is administered through a third-party app on a separate canvas page (now a link, formerly a tab).
Plus, good news! You CAN provide a giveaway and even collect names and emails from fans and visitors to your page. I highly recommend you add a custom contact form to your page. Use the sign-up box code from your own email management system, or create your own form code using something like JotForm, reviewed here.
You can use a piece of “fan only” reveal code to give away a coupon code or special gift to everyone who likes your page. Check out Guy Kawasaki‘s Facebook page for his forthcoming book, Enchantment, where he gives away a free ebook just for liking his page.
See the Facebook page of 1-800-Flowers for a discount code, only revealed to users who like their page.
How can I tell if a contest on Facebook adheres to the guidelines?
Promotions on Facebook need to have clearly set-out terms that are visible right on the canvas page. For example, here's the Twice Baked, Twice as Smart photo contest rules:
Can I promote a contest on my Facebook page that I run on my blog?
Yes. As long as there's no requirement to do anything on Facebook; e.g., like your page, comment, upload content, etc. You can simply post a link on your page to the contest. And, to be fully safe, I would also include this disclosure, “This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”
Is it worth the risk to run a contest without a third-party app?
No, the risks are far too great, in my opinion. Yes, Facebook does not have the resources to monitor every single promotion on the platform. But, you never know when you might catch the attention of their legal department.
In addition to our other remedies, we may remove any materials relating to the promotion or disable your page, application or account if we determine in our sole discretion that you violate any of our policies.
Facebook is serious about taking action if they discover a violation. My friend, Jonathan Rivera, had an experience with his real estate referral Facebook page where there was an inadvertent use of a trademark. Despite Rivera's becoming compliant, Facebook shut down the very popular page with tens of thousands of fans. Fortunately, the issue got resolved in a fairly timely manner and Jonathan got his page back intact… under a new name.
So, just take note that any violation of Facebook's terms is obviously a risk. (Along with directly administering contests and promotions on your Facebook page, two other common violations are setting up more than one personal profile and/or setting up a personal profile in the name of a business.)
Hopefully the fog around contests on Facebook has lifted for you now! All you need to remember is anytime you wish to run any kind of promotion where you select a winner, you'll have to use a third-party application on the Facebook platform. I'll be writing a follow-up post covering the specifics of what makes a successful contest. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, what questions do you have about contests? Have you run any successful promotions yourself? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
UPDATE March 5, 2011: It may be that you can run a contest using Facebook‘s new iFrames feature and remain in compliance with the Promotions Guidelines. Essentially, you are creating your own app in order to use iFrames and you host the content on your own site. I'm waiting to hear back from Facebook with the definitive answer and will keep you posted. Also, please note that my use of the term “third party app” includes an app you create yourself if you have the know-how/resources to do so – you basically become the “third party” in this case.
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